Gangasagar has acres of dazzling silver sand and clear blue sky and the quiet sea for travellers who would like to spend their weekend in serenity. Also popular as Sagardwip, Gangasagar is still relatively unknown and thus, unexploited.
The island of Gangasagar is among the most popular Hindu pilgrimage places in the country. Each year on Makar Sankranti (mid-January), large number of devotees from all over the nation, congregate at Gangasagar for a sacred dip at the convergence of the river Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. After the sacred dip, the pilgrims offer Puja' at the Kapil Muni Temple or Ashram. In several Hindu myths, the name Gangasagar is mentioned, Gangasagar also finds itself in the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore. The lighthouse at Gangasagar has great views of this beach and is perfect for watching the sunrise and sunset.
The village priest leading his horde of devotees chants sab teerth baar baar, Ganga Sagar ek bar. You can go to all the holy places, but a pilgrimage to Ganga Sagar equals them all. A dip means redemption for all wrong done. This place is Sagar Island, on the confluence of the Ganga with the Bay of Bengal. The day “Makar Sankranti” or the last day of the month of Paus (December). Legend has it that, before joining the sea, the Ganga watered the mortal remains of King Sagar’s 60000 sons liberating their souls once and forever. It was standing on the Sagar Island that the mythical Kapil Muni condoned th sins of the sons of King Sagar who had dared to stop the horse blessed at Lord Indra’s Aswamedha Yagna and tied it to a post near his temple. It is this legend that attracts people to this little island in a remote southern corner of West Bengal.
The Ganga Sagar mela (fair) is the largest annual assemblage of devotees in India. The greatness of the mela can be accessed from the fact that over a million pilgrims come from far-flung corners of India and beyond, speaking different languages and belonging to diverse castes and creeds, for a sacred dip at this holy confluence. For this, no invitation is given. No propaganda is carried out and overall no authority exists for carrying out the mela.
The typical Ganga Sagar pilgrim is a country rustic, generally elderly, hardy, remarkably disciplined and fervent in his devotion. His dhoti seldom going below his knees, a cloth bound packet, containing everything needed for survival, on his head. And, of course, his women – heavily tattooed and clad in colourful saris.
Figure 5: Holy Dip in Gangasagar
REGIONAL PILGRIM TOURISM CIRCUIT
As per the brief profile of Tourism Circuits in West Bengal for improving the quantity and quality of basic and tourism infrastructure for circuits/destinations Gangasagar- Birbhum- Tarkeshwar- Furfura Sharif is considered as Circuit 1 as Pilgrim Tourism.
Destinations covered under this circuit are as under:
1) Gangasagar: Kapilmuni ashram, Okhanath Temple
2) Birbhum: Tarapith, Sainthia, Kankalitala
3) Bakreshwar: Shiva Temple, Hot water spring
4) Tarkeshwar: Tarkeshwar Temple
5) Furfura Sharif: Mosque built by Muqlish Khan This circuit covers a distance of approximately 751 km and can be covered in duration of two days
Sagar Island offers acres of silver sand, clear blue sky and the calm sea for visitors who would like to spend their weekend in the tranquillity. Tourism Industry with its great potential is now steadily growing in and around the Gangasagar and Bakkhali area. The Bakkhali sea Resort under Namkhana Block, characterized by long stretches of pristine beaches with gently cascading ripples of sea water and lush greenery of mangrove plantation makes an ideal weekend Getaway for city weary populace as well as tourists from other states and abroad. The nearby islands of Jambudwip with its historical significance are also major attraction. The Henry’s island has also a nice scenic beauty.
Sagar is a large island on the mouth of the Hugli and offers good habitat for a variety of water birds on its long and varied coastline. Herobhanga is an isloated and seasonally inhabited sandy island off the coast of Sagar island. It offers safe roosting for large numbers of waders and seabirds.The Forest Department’s Bird Sanctuary and Crocodile Breeding projects nearby Bhagabatpur are also quite attractive.
Adventure Tourism Circuit
Figure 7: Map showing major Tourist destination around Gangasagar
Sagar Island: Sagar Island's location and topography makes it an excellent bird-watching site. Many species have been recorded here and include good birds like Amur Falcon, Terek and Curlew Sandpipers, Dunlin, Sanderling and Great-crested Terns. A flock of over 500 Small Particles was also observed here in October 2007. Really, anything from the checklist can turn up at Sagar and more field visits are required in this area.
Herobhanga Island or Haribhanga Dwip: Formerly known as Lower Long Sand Island, this is an isolated little, almost entirely treeless, island which sits out in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Sagar Island. This 400- 500 hectare sandy outcrop was once proposed to be declared a marine wildlife sanctuary based on the rich marine biodiversity in and around the island. However, the plan was dropped when illegal occupants of Jambu Island had to be offered an alternative off-shore location to dry fish.
Mausuni Island:This is a beautiful island very near Kolkata. From Esplanade(Kolkata) take a bus for Namkhana. Then cross the river and on the other side of the river take a Bakkhali bound bus and get down at Sashmol bus stop only 7 km from Namkhana. From Sashmol Bus stop take a cycle van to reach Sashmol Ghat(around 20 mins).From Sashmol Ghat take a motor boat to cross the Chenai river to reach (Baghdanga) Mousuni. The island is a paradise for bird watchers.
Jambu Island : Protected Jambu Island lies off the Frazerganj coast and is uninhabited. Boats from Frazerganj jetty do round tours of the island. Jambudwip is a notified 'Reserve Forest' comprising 1950 hectares. It is located in the estuary of Hugli river lying eight km south west of Fraserganj and is one of the southern-most islands on this coast. The island has mixed forests as a result of human occupation for many years. The encroachers were eventually evicted a few years ago and the island now has only a small security presence. The long coastline provides refuge to a variety of water birds and may serve as a breeding area for some tern species.
Beaches of Jambu Island
Henry Island: This small area is separated from the rest of Bakkhali island by a deep creek has one of the most pristine beaches left in West Bengal for bird-watching. The sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy, sometimes muddy, but most times deserted beach stretches out to the open expanse of the Bay of Bengal and faces densely forested Lothian Island in the distance. A thick cluster of trees, including some mangroves, delineates the tidal area from inland marshy pockets converted for intensive fishery use. Both the long coast and the inland parts support diverse bird life within a fairly small area. And there are no tigers around to curtail your movements! All this makes Henrys Island a true birdwatching hotspot and the best place to visit on the West Bengal coast.
Figure 10: attractions of Henry Island
Bakkhali, Frezergunj: Bakkhali is a little visited beach resort about 80 kilometers due south of Kolkata. It the last inhabited island on the eastern sea face till the border with Bangladesh. Frazerganj and Bakkhali are connected on the coast and the almost uninhabited Henrys Island lies to the east of Bakkhali and is separated by a wide, deep and muddy creek.
Beaches of Bakkhali>
Scenic bauty of Gangasagar attracts the tourist immensely. Sometime tourists are interested even visit this Circuit considering Henry Island, Bakkhali and Maushuni Island. Staying in all these virgin beaches always attracts Tourists for the unique adventurous experience.
There are several other spots in Sagar Island as the Sagar Light House, Solar Plant, Wind Mill, Deer Park, Sagar Marine Park at South Sagar, Port Benguakhali, Sushma Devi Chowdhurani Marine Biological Research Institute (SDMBRI) at Bamankhali , Chemaguri Mud Flad( Entry point of Mangrove Forest) etc. The tourists and the pilgrims specially halts for 2 or 3 days for visiting temple and enjoying the beaches of the Island. They visits temples, offer Puja, take prosad , listen to various religious congregation, sopngs recitation and even take part in meditation etc. along with taking bath in Gangasagar , offering Puja to Kapil Muni Temple.